Cayman hotelier notes challenge in hiring local hospitality workers; getting former employees to return

Michael Tibbetts says trying to remobilize hospitality industry “quite a challenge” as Cayman reopens to tourists 

GEORGE TOWN, CAYMAN ISLANDS — As the nation officially reopened to travelers this month, Michael Tibbetts of Cleary Cayman Resorts described his challenge in hiring local Caymanian hospitality workers, as well as getting others who had previously worked in the industry but been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic to return to their former jobs.

Michael Tibbetts. (Photo: Cayman Compass)

Noting that “staffing up is a big challenge”, Tibbetts said, “For our three resorts, we have a lot of dedicated staff that’s already still there, ready to work, but we’re much lower capacity than we would have been in normal times — from 150 to 50 or so employees. So, trying to remobilize is quite a challenge.”

He added, “As much as we want to hire Caymanians into positions, there are some positions which are very difficult to find Caymanians in.

“There’s been a number of outreach attempts for Food & Beverage, for kitchen staff. So, if you can’t hire kitchen staff and Food & Beverage, then you can’t hire the front desk staff and the housekeepers in turn…

“If you don’t have restaurants open, then you can’t have guests. If you can’t have guests, then you can’t hire the housekeepers, the front desk, water sports folks as well.”

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    Getting former hospitality employees back to work

    The hotelier highlighted that not only is tourism “just getting going”, with some properties likely to remain closed until next year due to low demand that will gradually rebuild, but also “we can’t hire staff”.

    The Cayman Islands, led by Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan, welcomed the first group of Cayman Airways (CAL) passengers arriving the afternoon of Saturday, November 20, 2021 — the long-awaited day of reopening of Cayman to tourists. (Photo: Bina Mani / GIS)

    “Staff that left, in many cases, [have] taken other employment and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to come back.’ But now, they’re happy with another job,” Tibbetts said.

    “They’re fearful of what the future holds; they know that we’re not going to be busy to start, so it’s going to take some time to get back up and going.”

    However, Tibbetts granted that the recent reopening has been a positive start and industry stakeholders are “encouraged [by] where we are”.

    At the same token, he cautioned, “But we also want to let people know that it’s going to be a longer process than I think that a lot of people think, and we really need to continue to work together with government regarding these issues of airlift, regarding the issues of bringing back staff and remobilizing because these are huge issues that will affect our recovery for years to come.”

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